NGI Recipient: Adam Hinton
Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - American Week (2015)
I attended American Week at Pinewoods this August. It was a doozy of a trip to even get there – I travelled thirty hours each way by Megabus from St. Louis, Missouri, with Chloe, my fellow scholarship recipient. The stories from that could write an essay on their own.
Falling in love with Pinewoods was a gradual thing for me. I arrived after the two-and-a half day trip (we had several long layovers) and didn’t make it to the camp tour. We made it on time to bring our stuff into the cabin and be ushered on to dinner. I don’t remember much about the first couple of nights since they were eclipsed by the joy of the rest of the week, but I do know that I was feeling challenged and overwhelmed by the (apparently) miles-long camp, and all the people that (apparently) knew each other, and thinking it would be difficult to fit in with all these crazy New Englanders. I was very wrong, as I soon found out.
The workshops were great and enjoyable, but the connections and friends that I made will stay fresh in my mind much longer. There was a group of about a dozen other young adults, and we slowly gravitated into a clump as the week went on. We started out with a casual card game. I acted casual, but I was very eager to make friends. We bonded over racy card games and offbeat senses of humor, which translated to chemistry on the dance floor.
One of the most rewarding parts about making all these friends was that we would sit down and have discussions about our communities. We spent a few hours comparing notes about our home dances, talking about what we did well, what could be changed. This amalgamation of perspectives from all over the country was exhilarating. I consider myself a dance organizer, and will take home the results of these brainstorming sessions more than anything.
We also spent some time skill-swapping. I spent off-time (does that exist at Pinewoods?) at empty pavilions with three or four people, dancing to recorded music and trading flourishes and dips. This intellectual and dancetellectual exchange combined with the workshops to create, probably, the greatest learning experience I’ve had in my dancing life.
I discovered quickly that a number of the young folks liked blues dancing, and then made them dance with me over and over again. I am obsessed with blues dancing! There’s none of it in my home town so I was excited to find people who wanted to dance. One of the greatest things I learned from Pinewoods is how to organize people to get together and dance. I learned a lot from scheduling times to meet up with them and exchange ideas and blues dance, and I am taking that back to my home dance.
I gained many things from Pinewoods – I’d never skinny-dipped before – but the workshops offered a host of interesting ideas to take back home. Particularly with George Marshall, and his inspiringly unique style of calling, I have a lot of ideas, the seeds of which I’m already planting at my home dance. Something that challenged me all weekend was the word that many Midwestern dancers dread: English. I dislike English. They did it three or four times a night. I was confused- I came to American week, why are we doing so much English dancing? I decided to challenge myself and try it again. While I still didn’t like it, I accepted the challenge and did an acceptable number of the English Country dances. I did not die.
The highlight of the week was how organically that many of us younger folks clumped together. I thought they were cool at first, and was glad to have people who wanted my company. I was certainly afraid of not making any friends. But I didn’t expect that we would spend the last three nights sleeping in a big puppy pile on one of the cabin floors. What I also didn’t expect was to shed tears on Saturday and exchange hours-long goodbyes. I felt like I had known these folks for years, and it was harder for the fact that I live thousands of miles away from them. But I find solace in the fact that we set up an internet chat forum to stay in contact.
I gained many skills, saucy dips, and skinny dips from Pinewoods, but the networking and ideas that I gained from my fellow campers are what I will take home with me. Those brainstorming sessions changed my view on what it means to be a contra dance organizer.
As for the NGI scholarship: It’s great, keep doing it. I never would have been able to attend without it. You don’t need to change it, I just hope you can offer more of them.